Not only did hospitals not get the money they sought in President Joe Biden's bipartisan infrastructure package, they could actually see Medicare payment cuts under the proposal.
Under the framework Biden announced alongside Democratic and Republican senators at the WHite House last week, Medicare reimbursement reductions would help cover the legislation's $1.2 trillion cost. The plan would reduce Medicare payments to hospitals and other providers by 2% through at least 2031.
Hospitals, a powerful lobbying force for an industry that has endured successions of Medicare reimbursement cuts over the past few decades, are pushing back.
"Unfortunately, the bipartisan infrastructure framework lists a continuation of mandatory sequestration as an offset for the infrastructure agreement. Medicare funds should not be used to pay for roads and bridges," America's Essential Hospitals, the American Hospital Association (AHA) and others wrote in the letter to Senate leaders Tuesday.
"We cannot sustain additional cuts to the Medicare program," the associations wrote.
The federal government paused the automatic cuts derived from the 2013 "budget sequestration" law during the COVID-19 pandemic to ease financial pressure on providers, which are due to resume next year.
Hospital groups advocate maintaining the COVID-19 moratorium. Instead, the bipartisan package would extend the sequestration cuts to at least 2031, a year after they currently are set to expire.
The infrastructure framework also would use unspent COVID-19 relief funds for other initiatives. Hospitals also oppose this element of the plan.
There remains $32 billion in unspent dollars in the federal Provider Relief Fund, a part of the CARES Act enacted by Congress and President Donald Trump in March 2020, and HHS has not disclosed when it will distribute the money.
With Congress' attention turned now to infrastructure, hospital groups are worried the relief funds will be diverted to other priorities.
"We would ask that none of these COVID-19 healthcare relief funds be used for the purpose of funding an infrastructure package, given the ongoing need for healthcare providers to offer assistance to their patients and communities," the letter says.
The infrastructure package includes funding for expanding broadband access, modernizing transit, rebuilding and repairing roads and bridges, eliminating lead service lines and pipes, and upgrading power infrastructure. But it does not specifically include money for hospitals. AHA had asked for funding to help hospitals improve facilities and prepare for future pandemics.